How to Go Ice Fishing Without Dying

Ice fishing

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Would you like to learn how to go ice fishing?

Ice fishing may be the most underrated winter sport of all time. While it may not be as popular as skiing or sledding, it can be just as thrilling. No, really. Imagine sitting on a pristine, snow-covered lake with a few friends and tossing a line down through the ice. After an hour or so, you get a bite. To your surprise and utter astonishment, you put up the fight of your life and haul out a massive 20-pound walleye.

If that scenario sounds like fun, ice fishing may be right up your alley. However, this sport can also be dangerous — you are on ice, of course. Before you step foot on a frozen lake and drill a fishing hole, you must take proper precautions if you want to survive.

Be Safe

Each year, four to five North Americans die out on the ice while fishing. These casualties are usually the result of thin ice mixed with too much alcohol. Keeping a level head and an eye on the ice should be your top priority to stay alive. Generally, 4 inches is safe enough to walk on and drill a fishing hole through, and 8-12 inches of ice is strong enough to bear the weight of your car. 

Staying safe also entails knowing what to do if you or someone with you were to break through the ice. If you fall in, move to the edge of the ice and pull yourself out using a sharp object like an ice pick. Once out, roll at least 6 feet away before standing up. If your buddy falls in, lie on your stomach and extend a tree branch, rope or your belt, and then pull them to safety. 

Layer Up 

Another huge component of staying safe is wearing the right clothes. Regardless of where you go fishing, it’s going to be cold. To keep warm, you’re going to have to layer on the winter attire — long underwear and all. The best base layer will wick away moisture from your skin. Avoid cotton, as it tends to soak up moisture, and opt for polyester or nylon instead. Wear wool as a second layer. This fabric is a great insulator as long as you don’t get wet. 

For your outer layer, put on a coat that can block out the wind and keep you dry in case of a snowstorm. The shell should be breathable but resilient. Although a bit rigid, Gore-Tex fabric will do a great job of keeping you dry and warm by allowing your perspiration to evaporate and repelling water on the outside. While it may be a bit pricier, at least you’ll have a coat you can depend on, in both good and bad weather. 

Build a Shelter

Even if you have the warmest gear, sitting out there on the ice for hours at a time can take a toll on your body. Building or finding a decent shelter is key. You can make one from wood or steel if you plan on using it all winter or over multiple seasons, or you can purchase a thermal ice fishing shelter online for a few hundred dollars. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you might even build a small igloo out of packed snow. 

However, most people move locations if they don’t get a bite after a while. Therefore, it may be best to invest in a movable shelter. Most pop-up abodes have built-in pockets to store all your gear, making moving incredibly simple. Small, one-person shanties are equally simple to relocate, if not more so. Regardless of which shelter you choose, surrounding yourself with four walls and a roof of some sort will help keep you warm when chilly winter winds blow in. 

Surviving on the Ice

Ice fishing is a great winter activity, as long as you’re well prepared. Keep these safety tips in mind before you drill that hole and wait for the big one.

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